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Do we really need Dog Fart Awareness Day?

DFAD_HHS_2Dog Fart Awareness Day came and went over the weekend — and I wasn’t even aware of it!

Nor was I aware that such a day has apparently existed for at least three years.

My tendency is to question whether it is “a real thing” — sorry, but a Facebook page alone is not ample proof of that — and yet People magazine has written about it, and so have some dog writers I actually respect.

The recent People article was basically an interview with a veterinarian, and said nothing about the special day’s origins — or who was behind it. (Though the veterinarian did share that, in his experience, bulldogs fart more than any other breed.)

It’s hard to find any serious discussion, or background information on Dog Fart Awareness Day, also called Dog Farting Awareness Day. Just about everything you call up on the Internet seems to have been written more for the pun opportunities than to provide information.

You’d assume such a day would have some veterinary group behind it, telling us that, if our dogs are farting excessively, we should bring them in at once for an expensive battery of tests.

I could find no sign of that — and no explanation of why we need a Dog Fart Awareness Day. When they fart, and we are at home, don’t we quickly become pretty aware of it?

DFAD_LingerScanning legitimate news media, I found only a few references to it.

Twincities.com recently included it in a list of “officially” proclaimed days, but added, “not sure if this is a serious thing.”

Scientific American used the annual day as an opportunity to delve into dog fart research, producing a pretty fascinating article on its blog, Dog Spies.

Then again, the blog’s writer, Julie Hecht, was reporting about dog fart research even before the awareness day existed — proof that she is on top of things, or a little weird. Either way, her posts are always fascinating.

This one goes into some 2001 research at the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition in the UK where researchers, with help from a special dog fart jumpsuit and “odor judges,” measured the flatulence of dogs and assessed the odors on a 1 to 5 scale — 5 being “unbearable,” 1 being percussion without any noticeable odor.

The research was aimed at rendering dog farts less foul smelling, which is possible with dog farts (as it also is with humans).

Despite the day being mentioned in such a scholarly publication, I’m still suspicious of it.

Generally, such days have an organization behind them — one that has procured a proclamation for such a day in hopes of increasing awareness or sales, but DFAD, as it’s called, lists none.

National Hairball Day (April 28th) is recognized by the American Veterinary Association. National Dog Fighting Awareness Day (also April 8) is sponsored by the ASPCA. This is also National Dog Bite Prevention Week, sponsored by, among others, the U.S. Postal Service.

But National Dog Farting Awareness Day seems to have wafted in out of nowhere.

If “bogus” — and my suspicions lean that way — does DFAD take away from more serious issues, like dogfighting awareness, or, as some maintain, is it a good thing even if it is all in jest, because it allows dog lovers to share and celebrate their dogs, and create their own memes.

(Memes and farts have a few things in common by the way. They can erupt spontaneously, grab everyone’s attention and then quickly dissipate. You’re never sure who was behind them, and the perpetrators — whoever they were — probably feel better after expressing themselves.)

It’s important to keep in mind anyone can go online and get a national day of pretty much anything proclaimed, like at this website.

These informal national days are not to be confused with official ones — those proclaimed by Congress and our president, such as a National Missing Children’s Day, or National America Recycles Day.

Dog farts and hairballs are not among issues Congress considers pressing, but luckily entrepreneurs are there to fill the void, and give your cause the attention you feel it deserves — a day of it’s own. And maybe someday your day will show up in an esteemed publication like Scientific American, or People, or ohmidog!, thus adding credence to the belief your day is a real thing.

I don’t believe there is an officially sponsored, organizationally-backed Dog Fart Awareness Day. And I don’t think we need one.

As for the one that seems to exist, for purposes that seem limited to giving us a chuckle, I’m hoping it doesn’t linger too much longer.

(Photos: From the Dog Farting Awareness Facebook page)

When drones deliver will dogs get to growling? Amazon wants to know

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Reports surfaced this week that Amazon, as it continues to develop its top secret project to someday deliver packages by drones, has obtained a “simulated dog” so they can assess what obstacles dogs might pose to drones, and how to avoid them.

This is a real story. Honest.

It sounds a little like something out of an episode of Robot Wars, but the dangers dogs could pose to drones, and, more important, drones could pose to dogs, are well worth considering if this whole drone delivery idea is going to come to pass.

(Which I’d prefer it didn’t.)

Amazon doesn’t care what I think, though, and it is proceeding very secretly on the drone project, and looking at how to equip drones with enough artificial intelligence (beyond GPS) for them to cope with what postal carriers have long been coping with — everything from dogs to clotheslines.

Ironically, the Amazon simulated dog story came out same day the Postal Service released its latest dog bite figures, which are undergoing the largest increase in three decades.

Dog attacks on postal workers rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the previous year — but the increase comes amid double-digit increases in the post office’s package business. Postal carriers are visiting more homes more frequently and at all times of day, often burdened with packages, thanks to agreements the Postal Service struck with Amazon in 2013 and 2014.

In other words, the more Internet shopping we all do, the greater burden we put on postal carriers, thereby increasing the chances for them to be victims of dog bites.

Unless of course packages are being delivered by drones, as Amazon — clearly the biggest catalyst in online shopping’s growth — proposes to do.

If there’s a conspiracy theory that might apply to all this, please feel free to apply it. Because I can’t come up with one.

According to the International Business Times, Amazon is using the simulated dogs as it conducts tests with drones in the UK.

It is not known how many simulated dogs there are in Amazon’s pack or what, if any, behaviors they’ve been programmed to imitate — barking, biting, tail-wagging?

410I1FkDAkLNor is it known whether Amazon created them, procured them from a contractor, or ordered them from themselves.

Amazon has been testing delivery drones since 2015. In July 2016 it signed a partnership with the UK government to explore the safe use of UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) to make deliveries in rural and suburban areas.

There are plenty of rough spots still to be figured out, most of them dealing with the drone’s use of air space.

But, once it comes time for a drone to land, one of the major concerns is going to be dogs. The drones will deliver packages, guided by GPS, and leave them on a special welcome mat the customer has placed on a front porch or a back patio.

Some dogs, I suspect, will cower in fear when a drone appears overhead; maybe a few will take them in stride, but many will see them as humming and hovering monsters, intent on trying to invade their territory.

(Which, to me, is a pretty accurate description.)

A drone’s blades can inflict serious damage, and ingesting a drone’s parts could also be a hazard. And Amazon is not unaware of the potential liabilities.

So now it’s researching how to give drones some artificial intelligence — to equip them with the ability to protect themselves when they sense a danger to themselves or others.

Given it’s a dog friendly company, it’s not likely Amazon will arm drones to spray cayenne pepper when a dog approaches.

Dropping a couple of treats — charming as that would be, and though it works well for postal carriers — probably wouldn’t work, either.

More likely, the drones will be taught to just abort their landing and return to their home base if a dog’s presence is sensed.

That could ruin many a “same day delivery,” but, unless you are ordering insulin, is that really so important?

The best solution is pretty obvious. Drop the fanciful and futuristic pipe dream. Keep the skies clear. Let humans make the deliveries.

I’ll gladly wait another day, or two, or three, for my package in exchange for the benefits that would offer — jobs, peace and quiet, and safer dogs and children among them.

(Photos: At top, an Amazon delivery drone, courtesy of Amazon.com; lower, the Genibo SD Robotic Dog, available from Amazon)

Family seeks to halt use of cyanide traps

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An Idaho family has launched an online petition aimed at outlawing the government’s use of cyanide traps like the one that sent their son to the hospital and claimed the life of their dog last month.

The devices are used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in remote areas to control predators by exposing them to a blast of cyanide gas.

Canyon Mansfield, 14, was knocked to the ground last month when a cyanide trap, also known as an M-44, spewed cyanide gas into his face and killed his dog, Casey, within seconds.

Although the government has said the devices are only planted with the permission of property owners — and only after neighbors are warned — the Mansfield family says it had no knowledge of the device, installed about 350 yards from their home.

canyonmansfieldSince the March 16 incident, Canyon has experienced headaches, nausea and numbness and has visited a neurologist for testing, his parents say.

The USDA maintains the devices help resolve conflict between wildlife and people in the safest and most humane ways possible, but “the nature of the cyanide bomb is neither safe nor humane,” Canyon’s father, Mark Mansfield, a doctor in Pocatello, wrote in an online
petition.

“Cyanide gas has been used throughout history to murder masses of people,” he said.

The M-44s, also known as “coyote-getters,” are designed to lure animals who smell their bait. When an animal tugs on the device, a spring-loaded metal cylinder fires sodium cyanide powder into its mouth.

Over the years, thousands of non-target animals — wild and domestic — have been mistakenly killed by the lethal devices.

Four conservation and animal-welfare groups announced Tuesday they are suing the Trump administration for “failing to protect endangered species from two deadly pesticides used to kill coyotes and other native carnivores.”

“Cyanide bombs are indiscriminate killers,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“In just the past several weeks they’ve injured a child and killed an endangered wolf and several family dogs. These dangerous pesticides need to be banned, but until then, they shouldn’t be used where they can hurt people or kill family pets and endangered wildlife,” Adkins said.

The government, meanwhile, has called the accidental death of family pets from M-44s a “rare occurrence,” and said Wildlife Services posts signs and issues other warnings to alert pet owners when traps are placed near their homes.

(Photos by the Mansfield family)

Amazon knows how to treat its employees — and its employee’s dogs

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If its employees are a company’s most treasured resource — and if what those employees treasure most are their dogs — it makes perfect sense that Amazon is spending millions of dollars on an employee lounge and dog park at its expanding downtown campus.

The tech giant opened part of the dog park yesterday in the shadow of the Spheres, a unique glass structure that will open next year as a “relaxation area” for employees.

The dog park is the second that the dog-friendly company has provided for employees, but this one will also be open to the public as part of a public plaza that serves as the centerpiece of Amazon’s $4 billion downtown campus.

The dog park will be completed this summer with the installation of a turf field adjacent to the park. The Spheres, destined to become another feature of the Seattle skyline — albeit it a low-lying one — will open in 2018.

amazondogs_9377-630x420Inside the glorified greenhouse — consisting of three connected spheres, about five stories high — there will be hundreds of exotic plants, waterfalls, trees (with treehouses), all in a climate that resembles that of Costa Rica’s Central Valley.

Amazon, where employees regularly bring their dogs to work, is renowned as a dog-friendly company.

According to Geekwire.com, more than 2,000 dogs are registered at the company’s headquarters, where most reception desks are stocked with biscuits and some water fountains around campus are set at dog height.

Amazon has a special page on its website — “Meet the dogs of Amazon” — that profiles more than 30 pups.

Eliana Parenti, an instructional designer at Amazon, told Geekwire one of the main reasons she relocated from Miami with her two small dogs to work for the tech company was their dog policy.

“It’s the biggest perk of working here,” said Sebastian Kurin, a lawyer who works with the Amazon Web Services team. Bringing his dog Simba into work everyday was “something I was most excited about when I got a job offer at Amazon.”

Employees say their dogs provide stress relief and help the overall work environment at Amazon.

(Photos: By Taylor Soper / GeekWire.com)

It DOES amount to a hill of beans

There are several things I have long wondered about Bush’s canned beans.

Why do they take up nearly a full half aisle of the grocery store?

How do they get Duke, the dog that appears in commercials with spokesman Jay Bush, to talk?

And what, exactly, is the difference between Bush’s Baked Beans and Bush’s Grillin’ Beans?

It’s time for some answers, America, or at least guesses.

For starters, I’m guessing that the Bush folks are paying off the grocery chains, or at least buying managers some lovely gifts, in order to be granted such large and prominent displays at so many stores.

Next, I am guessing that Duke is not speaking via special effects, but is an actual talking dog, on loan from the prestigious Hollywood Talking Dog Academy to play the role.

woof in advertisingAs for question three — and this is the one I have pondered most — I continue to wrack my brain.

At first, I assumed the Baked Beans were beans that had been baked, or were supposed to be baked, and the Grillin’ Beans were beans that had been grilled, or were supposed to be grilled.

But if they are meant for us to grill them, wouldn’t the Grillin’ Beans just be lost — kind of like the final “g” in grilling — as they fell through the grill slots?

(For you know-it-alls, putting a pot of something atop a grill grate is not grilling, and it’s definitely not grillin’; it is heating up.)

grillinbeans

I did some internet research, and visited the Bush’s website, but the only thing I learned is that Grillin’ Beans have a bolder flavor than the Baked Beans. It’s the same old bean, just in a spicier sauce.

I have no problem with bold and spicy. In fact, I think I prefer the bold and spicy version of Jay in the commercial above to the regular, far blander, version of him. As for Duke, to be honest, I prefer him unadorned, and non-speaking. I’m just not big on talkin’ dogs.

Call me a skeptic, but if you have a talking dog in your ad, I’m not going believe any of the other dubious and far-reaching claims you are making about any of your products. Then again, I’m probably not going to believe them anyway.

I am aware of few other products presented in so many variations as Bush’s Beans — hickory, chipotle, brown sugar, maple, honey, homestyle, country style, original, bold and spicy, vegetarian (meaning they haven’t added bacon) and different combinations thereof. And that’s not even including the products Bush makes from different beanages, such as the black, the kidney and the pinto, the red, the white and the garbanzo.

My theory is that those who make and market the beans figure the more selections they offer, the more grocery shelf space they can grab.

This is by no means strictly a bean thing.

Chips, such as your Pringles and your Doritos, also follow this strategy. And pet foods also use this approach (or perhaps, they led the way). A can of Alpo could be from their Prime Cuts, Chop House, Gravy Cravers or Prime Classics styles. Each one of those comes in multiple flavors, seven for Prime Cuts alone.

One dog food company takes things a step farther, offering more than 200 different products, each supposedly custom designed for a specific breed.
They want us to think that virtually every breed of dog needs a different formula of dog food.

Perhaps you’ve seen this Royal Canin commercial, which tells us that the golden retriever and the yellow Lab — similar as they are — “eat, digest and process energy differently.”

Royal Canin is a ridiculously priced dog food not sold in grocery stores, which is a good thing, because if it were, there would be room for nothing else. Even Bush’s beans would have to clear out. Maybe that’s why it’s not sold in grocery stores.

Or maybe it’s all a marketing gimmick aimed at making us think Royal Canin is such a special, exclusive and high end product it must be purchased from your veterinarian. It’s called a “prescription diet.” It’s nothing of the sort.

Show me, Royal Canin, how Labs and goldens differently digest food, and differently “process energy.” Sure, one of them (sorry, Labs) may generally wolf their meals down more quickly, but aren’t the various tubes and chambers that food goes through on its way out pretty much the same for both breeds?

Why, when I read the ingredients for both, do I notice hardly any difference?

The profusion of flavors in beanage, in chippage, in dog food and everything else, is not new. Remember when there was just one Coke?

And it’s not all about claiming more shelf space. By coming up with a flavor for every mood, companies are able to bring more customers into their folds, and dazzle them with their vast arrays.

Variety may be the spice of life, but it’s all becoming a little much. No longer do we just have to decide between brands, we have to decide within brands, and a trip to the grocery store requires making more choices than election day.

Regular or non-drowsy, diet, sugar-free or light; thick crust or thin crust; smooth or chunky; gluteny or gluten-free; plain or low sodium; regular, spicy, or super spicy.

By the time I get to the checkout line, I’m exhausted, and have used up all my decision making powers for the day.

But I still have to decide whether I want paper or plastic bags, and if I will pay by credit card, debit card, or cash.

Kind of makes me wish I had a dog like Duke I could bring along on shopping trips to tell me what to do. On the other hand, you can’t trust a talking dog, can you?

For more of our Woof in Advertising posts, click here)

UNC baseball team starts season with a service dog in the dugout

The University of North Carolina baseball team has welcomed a new teammate this year — a 2-year-old golden retriever named Remington.

Remington isn’t there to be a mascot, though he has learned some mascot-like tricks, like holding his cap for the national anthem, taking balls to the ump, and high-fiving his teammates.

But his larger role is as Carolina’s first athletics training room assistance dog (and the first in the ACC).

UNC reports that the dog’s official title is “psychiatric medical alert facility rehabilitation service dog,” which sounds like a lot of responsibility.

But, cutting through the mumbo-jumbo, what Remington does is help players recover from injuries.

He works with Terri Jo Rucinski, coordinator of the physical therapy clinic and staff athletic trainer for the team.

remingtonRucinski says student athletes who underwent surgeries in the fall seem to be bouncing back more quickly since Remington joined the team. “I’d like to think he had something to do with it,” she says.

Rucinski, who has worked with the team for 12 years, met Remington through paws4people, a Wilmington, N.C., nonprofit agency that places customized assistance dogs with clients at no cost.

He began his training when he was just 3-days-old. By 16 weeks, he was learning obedience and disabilities skills training. He also learned basic command sets, and knows more than 100 commands, including written commands from cue cards.

He joined the team last August after passing a series of certification tests.

Milo, in true dachshund form, gets stuck

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Dachshunds are renowned for sticking their heads in first and asking questions later.

So it’s not too surprising — especially when you throw in the fact that his owner was readying for an outing — that Milo found himself wedged halfway through a garden gate.

His owner, Sarah Jane Thompson, of Glasgow, was loading her six-week-old daughter into her carriage Monday when Milo ran around the garden and, in his excitement, got between the railings.

“He’s not as thin as he used to be so I think that he may have underestimated his own size,” Thompson told Metro.

Thompson, knowing dachshunds have sensitive backs, spent 30 minutes trying to gently dislodge him before calling the fire department to come and free him, the Daily Mail reported.

The Daily Mail article does not specify how they managed to extricate him — Jaws of Life? Soap and water? Buttering him up? — but Metro reports firefighters were able to dislodge him after turning him sideways.

In any event, it all ended happily, and we’re pretty sure Milo won’t do this again, until the next time he does it again.

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(Photos: By Sarah Jane Thompson / SWNS.COM)